There’s a famous notion about what all you can do in one day in L.A. People like to say, in just 24 hours, you can surf at the beach, ski on the mountain and play in the desert. While logistically this is true, a spectacular amount of time would be spent in the city’s notorious traffic.
Though the Los Angeles area is home to nearly 13 million residents, you can still enjoy the feeling of wide, open spaces and chic, private oases with the right plan. The City of Angels is dominated by the entertainment industry, the allure of celebrity and a varied geographical landscape of desert, mountain and sea. From the glamour of Old Hollywood to feasts at new restaurants — there’s a lot to experience, To get to the most out of these 4,752 square miles of urban sprawl in a mere 48 hours, dive into the diverse culture of its distinct neighborhoods.
Hang your hat at The Peninsula Beverly Hills, a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star at the center of the Southern California action. Or, if you’re in need of seclusion steeped in Hollywood history, choose a classic property such as Five Stars Hotel Bel-Air or The Beverly Hills Hotel. Whichever you choose, you can’t go wrong with this tony area as your launch pad.
After you have dropped off your bags, begin your adventure, SoCal style, with the elixir of your choice at Pressed Juicery on Bedford Drive. Consider replacing your morning joe with their signature vanilla coffee, a drink made of cold-pressed coffee blended with almonds, dates and vanilla beans.
Once you’ve received your jolt, cruise down Wilshire Boulevard, a posh stretch flanked by haute shopping mainstays such as Neiman Marcus and Barneys New York. Though you may lose a few hours from the power shopping, trust that the stores are a straight shot to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the bubbling La Brea Tar Pits. Although LACMA is in the midst of a 10-year expansion and renovation called the Transformation, the seven-building complex manages to still maintain a sense of space and serenity. The galleries hold more than 100,000 artifacts, objects and artworks including formidable collections of Asian and Latin American art.
Take a break from perusing masterpieces with some bruschetta or wood-fired pizza from the swanky onsite Ray’s and Stark Bar, which boasts a bustling dining scene, day and night. A quick stroll to the Page Museum at the famed La Brea Tar Pits offers a glimpse into pre-historic L.A. You don’t have to be an archeologist to dig into the expansive collection of three million-plus fossils (everything from Mastodons to saber-toothed cats) excavated from this very site. It’s fascinating.
If you still have an appetite, head to the heart of West Hollywood for a lavish lunch at The Ivy, L.A.’s iconic celebrity hotspot on boutique-lined Robertson Boulevard. Decked in chintz to mimic the feel of a cozy, French cottage, the restaurant is the ideal place for people watching, as long as you’re wearing sunglasses. After you’ve ordered an Ivy Gimlet — the perfect balance of mint, vodka and fresh lime juice — indulge in a generously portioned, comfort classic such as Ivy fish and chips with fresh wild rock cod, shrimp, scallops and calamari with Ivy onion rings. If you weren’t enticed with the boutiques on Wilshire earlier, you can work off the lunchtime guilt with an afternoon of shopping along Robertson and Rodeo Drive.
After taking a midday break back at the hotel, head east for the evening. The city’s business district has undergone revitalization within the last decade, and it’s quickly evolving into a vibrant, cosmopolitan scene. Downtown, L.A. boasts scores of acclaimed restaurants and groundbreaking art galleries. Catch the sunset with a pre-dinner cocktail at Perch, an art deco, rooftop French eatery and bar with a clear, expansive view of the city. In warmer months, live jazz fills the air. In cooler ones, two fireplaces roar and emanate warmth. Either scene is perfect for sampling a Fair Lady (Fair Quinoa vodka, cranberry, lime and crème de peche).
If you happen to come to Southern California with a group, plan ahead to have dinner at the chef’s table at Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Patina, in the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall. The definition of elegance and artistry in California cuisine, award-winning chef Joachim Splichal’s creations — Omaha beef tenderloins with potato, asparagus and olive jus, anyone? — are heightened by the beauty of the restaurant’s minimalist interior (undulating, warm wood-paneled walls against a crisp white palette). In full view of the kitchen, but cloistered from the main dining space, the chef’s table’s guests are served a customized, five- to seven-course meal with complementary wine pairings for up to nine people.
When it comes to planning out your second day, just remember that a leisurely afternoon on the coast can be as glamorous as a night on the town. That said, have the hotel concierge set up a private surfing or stand-up paddleboard lesson. But for a truly unforgettable day, The Peninsula Academy, an exclusive hotel service offered to guests for an over-the-top localized experience, presents Malibu Surf, Sand and Sun, a full day’s beach escape to a private waterfront estate, which includes a range of activities from kayaking in the Pacific to partaking in a three-course meal on the sand.
If you opt out of the Academy’s enticing offer, but rather choose to trek on your own to Santa Monica Beach (about 15 minutes from The Peninsula Beverly Hills), Malibu Surfrider Beach (30 minutes) or the sea caves at intimate El Matador State Beach (45 minutes), you still won’t be disappointed with your time at the ocean.
Of course, mastering the waves — or at least staring at them from your spot in the sand — can create a mighty appetite. Satisfy your hunger at Nobu Malibu. In the late 1980s, world-renowned chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa put California sushi on the map with his innovative resto, Matsuhisa. Part of a global phenomenon, this casually chic outpost of Nobu offers a sweeping ocean vista. It is the perfect spot to nibble on bites fresh from the land and sea, including the mouthwatering black cod with miso, spicy octopus wasabi salsa or truffle steak and eggs paired with cold, crisp sake.
Lunch provides fuel for the winding drive to The Getty Center, which holds a vast collection of treasures of Western art and architecture, from ancient manuscripts to Van Gogh, in a spectacular setting atop a hill in the Santa Monica Mountains. While master architect Richard Meier’s handiwork makes the Travertine stone building a study in light and nature, the panoramic vistas of Los Angeles and the California coast are the real stars of this show. A catnap afterward back at the hotel is just the activity needed to bypass the gridlock of the evening rush.
For a true, Los Angeles foodie experience once you’ve refreshed, head to Rustic Canyon Wine Bar and Seasonal Kitchen on Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica. Fresh fare from local farmers markets dominate chef Jeremy Fox’s menu, from simple plates such as beets and berries with creamy horseradish, fennel pollen and pistachio to olive-oil poached halibut with the surprising smoky-spice of poblano peppers. Follow that entrée with a selection of artisanal cheeses and a comforting maple pot de creme — you will leave utterly fulfilled.
Before going back to The Peninsula, make a pit stop at the pink palace to experience The Beverly Hills Hotel’s Forbes Travel Guide Recommended The Polo Lounge. Ogle the green-and-white striped ceiling and the patio’s sparkling lights that have presided over the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Johnny Depp for decades. Conjure a touch of Old Hollywood (and new), while enjoying a bit of live jazz and a French 75. Sweet dreams are made of this.
Photos Courtesy of iStock, Travis Conklin and The Peninsula Hotels